Getting Our Hands Dirty with Rise of the Tomb Raider

Rise of the Tomb Raider is a game that’s chock full of adventure, climbing, gun fights, stealth, and – most importantly – tombs. Earlier this month, we got to play through one of the first tombs in the new game, and witness heroine Lara Croft’s return to what made her one of our favorite heroes in all of gaming.

Our demo opened with Lara in Syria, looking for the fabled tomb of an ancient prophet. It’s a scene that takes place before the snowy adventures you may have seen in previous Rise of the Tomb Raider demos and trailers. After a brutal car crash, followed by an explosion, then a fall off a cliff, Lara found herself right near the entrance to the tomb. So, yeah – in case you thought Rise of the Tomb Raider was going to give Lara Croft a break this time… nope!

The bruised and bleeding Lara shook it off like a champ, and whipped out her father’s tape recorder to get some in-game exposition about where she was headed. The tape recorder is a nice device that keeps the game moving – while getting more story as you’re climbing up rocks and leaping chasms.

Tons of collectibles and artifacts are scattered throughout the game world, and Rise of the Tomb Raider rewards players for going off the beaten path. Lara can also examine murals and carvings around the tombs to level up her cryptography skills – and in turn, decipher clues to find hidden treasures.

Back to the tomb: The beginning of Lara’s descent into the dangerous crypt was a claustrophobic, fear-inducing scene. Surprise skeletons, massive scorpions, narrow crevices, and seeming dead-ends set the groundwork for a dangerous, trap-filled adventure. But scattered amongst all the danger and treasure was valuable information.

As Lara worked through the prophet’s tomb, she discovered scrolls and paintings that shed more light on who the prophet was, and how he relates to her quest for answers. It seems that the evil organization Lara is fighting this time around has been around for a long time.

True to the series, the tombs Lara encounters are a mix of puzzles, traps, and action sequences. At one point, we had to use our pickax to break open a wall and let water flood the room, so that we could reach higher ground. Later, we narrowly avoided an impalement, and had to shoot down some spiky traps that blocked our way.

One particularly cool thing is that Lara can scan an area, and get a sense of where traps and interactive objects are located. This consistently proves useful not only for leaping over some loose flooring that could crumble send you to your death, but also for getting a sense of the bigger rooms – and what you need to do in order to progress.

All in all, the tomb that we saw in Rise of the Tomb Raider was bigger than anything we encountered in the previous game, and it was just one of many tombs that Lara Croft will get to explore in her journeys. If you’re a Tomb Raider fan, that’s got to be pretty exciting. You’ll be able to do all the crypt excavation you want on November 10, when Rise of the Tomb Raider launches exclusively on Xbox One.